Posts Categorized: Work

eLearning in Quebec

A recent report, on the state of the elearning industry in Qu?ɬ�bec was commissioned by Alliance num?ɬ�riQC and conducted by Am?ɬ�lioraction. The executive summary, in French only, is available for viewing and the entire report will be available for purchase soon.

Here is my quick translation and summarization of the executive summary.

The report’s authors describe the Qu?ɬ�bec elearning industry as comprising about 60 companies, with a total of around 600 people. Most of these companies have fewer than 15 employees. During the past two years, many of these companies have seen 30 to 35% reductions in their annual earnings. These companies do not have the necessary resources to bring their products to market, especially since the elearning marketplace requires a complex "go to market" strategy.

Using Moore’s "chasm" model, the report states that Qu?ɬ�bec companies have done a good job of attracting the early adopters, but are failing at convincing the more conservative buyers about the merits of elearning. In Qu?ɬ�bec, most executives believe that classroom training yields better results than elearning. For this reason, the authors suggest that blended learning may be a better strategy for Qu?ɬ�bec elearning companies. They also suggest that the elearning industry look at creating complete, or end-to-end solutions, in order to compete in an industry that is witnessing major mergers and acquisitions. They see fragmentation as the major obstacle to their industry’s growth.

The authors suggest that the industry look seriously into partnerships and collaborative models. They see Alliance num?ɬ�riQC providing a provincial industry focus, and mention the national role of CeLEA for industry and CSTD for professional development.

Some of the 33 proposed actions include reinforcing the role of Alliance num?ɬ�riQC; increasing the business competences of business leaders – especially in marketing, exporting and partnering; and identifying events to educate major potential clients about elearning. They recommend that the markets to be addressed should be, in order – Qu?ɬ�bec, Canada, USA.

This is an interesting report, particularly for its similarities to other Canadian studies. There are some unique Qu?ɬ�bec perspectives, and I hope that the spirit of co-operation will go far beyond the provincial borders. Obviously, when you add the figures from the elearning industries in BC, Ontario, Quebec and NB, we’re still only a few thousand people, and it’s a big world.

Lean, Six Sigma & HPT

Mark Lauer explains in May’s PerformanceXpress how human performance technology (HPT) is closely linked to Lean Manufacturing methodology. He shows the direct connections between Lean’s six elements, and the performance standards for HPT professionals.

We are all fellow travelers on the performance improvement road. We bring to the table a long dedication to human performance improvement and expertise that is not at conflict with theirs but is a perfect complement to it. We are all comrades in arms.

Whether it be Lean Manufacturing, Six Sigma or HPT; there are enough similarities in methodologies that we can easily work together. Another comparison, between HPT and Six Sigma, was recently published by Darlene Van Tiem, of the University of Michigan.

Six Sigma can benefit from HPT?��Ǩ�Ѣs broader approaches incorporating theory and practice from a wider variety of fields. HPT, on the other hand, can benefit from Six Sigma?��Ǩ�Ѣs commitment to decisions based on evidence and its involvement with senior management.

It’s not how we help to improve organizational performance that’s important, it’s about making lasting changes that are important to our clients. A multidisciplinary approach makes more sense, and I will continue to learn from other methodologies.

Understanding DRM

Digital Rights Management (DRM) and copyright are all in the news today. I’m not a lawyer, and haven’t studied the legal field, but it’s becoming obvious that we all have to understand the impact of DRM on our lives. It’s no longer enough to be legal, as the laws, and their digital applications, keep changing. From The Shifted Librarian:

So in summary, iTunes, MS Reader, and Palm Digital Media DRM: bad.
This is what really scares me about libraries getting into the digital files business, even outside of all the issues surrounded subscription-based access versus ownership. When terms change on a whim, upgrades take away existing rights, and files become locked and inaccessible, how is this going to affect how we circulate titles to our patrons? It’s not like libraries have any leverage in this situation since publishers and Congress are doing their best to eradicate fair use rights, including the right of first sale.

These are the same issues that keep coming up with academic clients who are looking at selling learning content. Do you need to control content? How are you going to control content? Are your partners controlling content? What are the effects of controlling content? How will this influence your business model?
I should have followed my mom’s advice and become a lawyer 😉

Managing Projects

In The Problem, the Balloon, and the Four Bedroom House, the author discusses the critical component of project management – clearly understanding the problem and the expected results with everyone involved.

75% of the work of every successful project is completed in the initial stage. In other words, every project has a balloon phase. And if it doesn?��Ǩ�Ѣt happen at the beginning of the project, then you may get into some serious trouble.
The ?��Ǩ?�understanding?��Ǩ�� phase needs to provide you with the framework for the project. It should be assembled with all major stakeholders. And its purpose is to define the problem so you can design the solution. The 4 bedroom house.
On 13 March, 1999, Habitat for Humanity in New Zealand made the Guinness Book of Records. They constructed a four-bedroom house from scratch. It took a mere 3 hours, 44 minutes and 59 seconds. (I?��Ǩ�Ѣm sure there?��Ǩ�Ѣs a reality TV show in there somewhere, but I don?��Ǩ�Ѣt believe we need another one of those.) An incredible feat. The significant fact is that it took 14 months of planning to achieve.
The balloon was inflated at the correct end

I often refer to the "first rule of project management", which is – choose the right project. The balloon analogy is similar. If you don’t address all of the issues at the front end, then your project may balloon out of scope (and budget) in the middle, which is probably after you’ve negotiated the price. This is a great little article to remind us of many things that we probably already know about project management, but are worth reconfirming. The discussions are interesting, too.

Farewell TeleEducation

I had mentioned earlier that Teleeducation NB was going to close; the victim of government budget cuts. The news was finally been posted to the After 5 website [which is now offline], and the official closure date is May 7th, this Friday. Philippe Duchastel, the Director, has penned a final note [I come to bury Caesar, not to praise him], on TeleEd’s accomplishements and on what is left to be done:

For one thing, TeleEducation NB was very good at what it did: it led the way in creating a climate in which e-learning thrives in many sectors: our main universities and many of our colleges now use e-learning routinely; our school system enrols thousands each year in specialized courses offered online; and despite ups and downs, the e-learning industry in New Brunswick is still going strong. So e-learning is all around us.

Isn?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢t then the mission of TeleEducation NB accomplished? Yes and no? Yes, e-learning is here to stay and thrive. No, we are not a model of an e-learning society as initially envisioned. A lot is missing. Take the government professional sector. Professional development of civil servants should be taking routine advantage of the benefits of e-learning. As should also the health sector. And the education sector [the professional development of teachers]. These are all sectors where tradition is heavy and that need to be ?¢‚ǨÀúbrought along?¢‚Ǩ‚Ñ¢ to e-learning.

There is another article written by the staff at TeleEd, reviewing the specific accomplishments over the past ten years – including the Program Development Fund. I am certain that every company in this Province tapped into this fund for online learning content development [I know, I evaluated the fund in 2001]. The staff cite the legacy of TeleEd as:

* Citizens have increased access to education
* Businesses have been established
* A culture of education as an economic development tool has been created
* Public and private sector organizations collaborate for the good of both
* New Brunswick has been recognized internationally as a centre for e-learning development and delivery

I agree with these, but have to add that many businesses have been "uncreated" as well. What really matters though, are the people.

Furthermore, this legacy is only a snapshot. We need to continue to innovate and create new pedagogical and business models. It will only be in the next ten years that we will see if TeleEd’s legacy has resulted in something lasting for the learning sector and the region.

I know that there is an initiative to continue with the "After 5" online ‘zine, and I have offered to write, edit or do whatever is necessary to continue the conversations that have been started here. After 5 was in its infancy, and just getting a following. Let’s keep the conversation going; and that includes you – the "anonymous instructional designer" ;-).

This just in: After 5 ?¢‚Ǩ‚Äú the e-learning newsletter for New Brunswick" will be available May 31, 2004 at LearnNB – Watch for it!

Intellectual Property Legislation

In Mark Federman’s post The Fundamental Problem with Intellectual Property Legislation, he reports on an interview with Jack Velenti, head of the Motion Picture Association of America. In the interview, Valenti shows his ignorance of the fact that copyright laws are infringing on a lot of people (at least 2 million Linux users) who are doing what should be "legal" activities.

And that’s the problem. There are a lot of things that Jack Valenti – and the legislators whom he lobbies with stunning effectiveness! – don’t know, and haven’t realized about the issues of copyright, the evolution of culture, the cultural history of their (and other) countries, and the reversal of conventional distribution and marketing models in an age of instantaneous communications.

One of the problems is the disconnect between policy makers and the creators (not publishers) and users. Fortunately courts in Canada are more enlightened.
It’s true that "markets are conversations", and I believe that politics is conversation as well. It’s just that some of us are only allowed to converse every four years or so. If you think that copyright issues are important – copyright is inextricably linked to innovation and creativity – then get informed and join in the conversation.

Would you turn down a speaking opportunity?

One more reason that blogging is becoming a business medium is provided by Robert Scoble, the famous Microsoft employee who blogs.

I think the time is coming where executives and employees who blog well are going to start getting promotions. Why? Ask your execs what happens to them when they start turning down keynote opportunities at major industry conferences. Ask what happens to them when they consistently get invited to speak at industry conferences and they do a good job at it.

As a free agent, most of my business comes from referrals. Speaking at conferences or workshops has been my best venue for meeting prospective clients, because you are not giving a marketing pitch, and the audience is receptive to what you are saying (or should be, if you’re doing a good job). I’m relatively new to blogging, but it will be interesting to see over the next year or so if my customer contacts come more from my blog than from speaking engagements.

Via Lilia

Analysing Human Performance

Klaus Wittkuhn has written an excellent article on the systemic approach required in human performance analysis. This article appears in the March 2004 edition of "Performance Improvement" published by ISPI. The wealth of practical advice in PI is one more reason to become a member of ISPI (unabashed promotion here).

Wittkuhn discusses an aspect of performance analysis that has been bothering me for a while – how can you take a systemic approach when there are overlapping systems as well as multiple sub-systems in any organisation? Where do you start and where do you finish?

Wittkuhn discusses the idea of emerging properties (e.g. the whole is more than the sum of the parts) but also provides a template for intervention, that is practical but considerate of the fact that you cannot engineer human performance. Human performance is an emergent property of an organisation, and is affected by multiple variables.

Witthuhn’s approach for improving performance is to first address what he calls the "Steering Elements". These "ensure that the right product is delivered at the right time to the right place", and include – Management, Customer Feedback, Consequences, Expectations and Feedback.

Once the steering elements have been addressed, then look at the "Enabling Elements" – Management (again), Design, Resources and Support.

Only after the steering and enabling elements (the non-human factors) have been aligned, should you look at work performance. The rationale here is that it is only within an optimized system that we can expect optimal human performance. As Wittkuhn states:

It is not an intelligent strategy to train people to overcome system deficiencies. Instead, we should design the system properly to make sure that the performers can leverage all their capabilities.

This is the most succinct operationalization of performance technology that I have yet read, and I hope that it also makes sense to you. If not, please comment.

Business Blog Consulting

Rick Bruner has created a blog on the business aspects of the medium. This is an excellent site for corporate professionals, especially sales & marketing, wanting to know how to use blogs for more than just personal journals.

Business Blog Consulting is a site devoted to demonstrating how effective weblogs can be for communicating with customers and marketing to new customer prospects.

Via Lee Lefever.

Innovation and the Learning Industry 3

Dave Pollard completes his piece on A Prescription for Business Innovation in Part 3 of this series. I’ve previously commented on Part 1 and Part 2.

Simply put, we are living in an age when we cannot afford innovation, and cannot afford to be without it. Perhaps the most critical innovation need therefore is for creative mechanisms to finance, price and pay for the costs of innovation itself. Funding, pricing, and cost management are now inseparable parts of the innovation process.

Dave Pollard has created an innovation model that includes eight stages, and comprises three key processes – Analytical, Communicative and Creative processes. The eight stages are: Listen, Understand, Organize, Create, Experiment, Listen Again, Design, and Implement. Note how important "listening" is in this model.

My recent experience in the NB Learning Industry capacity initiative reflects that we are not listening enough. During the industry meetings this Winter, there was much discussion on "our" issues and needs, but very little on "broad ideas" from the market, key ideas from "pathfinder customers & competitors", "stories from the front lines", or an understanding of why customer wants and needs are not met. Maybe all of this information is proprietary, and not willingly shared, but we talked more about our needs, than our customers’ needs.

If we want to innovate, Dave Pollard’s model provides us with a starting point – Listening. We can provide a forum for listening through the Web, especially blogs. Remember that "markets are conversations", and innovation starts by really listening to those conversations. This is why we have to keep our R&D community of practice open to the public. Are there any users of learning products and services who have some advice for this industry? Post it here.

Update for the education community: George Siemens comments on Dave Pollard’s three articles as well:

Much of what he writes is applicable to education, training, and knowledge management. Formal education really needs to explore what innovation means in delivering learning. So much potential…yet so little focus.